Dealing With Our Differences

Psalm 133 says:

How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity!

But what about when we differ? Can we still dwell together in unity when we do not have uniformity?

Roger Nicole offers insights: How to Deal With Those Who Differ From Us.

Or, you can read this essay in sections:

  • Part 1 – The Necessity of Godly Disputation
  • Part 2 – What Can I Learn From Those Who Differ From Me?
  • Part 3 – How Can I Cope With Those Who Differ From Me?
  • Part 4 – The Christian’s Goal

5 thoughts on “Dealing With Our Differences

  1. Some good sound advice here on a tough topic Dennis. I enjoyed the articals, thanks.

    I will however comment on just a couple of issues I think with all due respect Dr Nicole missed the mark. One issue is his example of the viewing the other as an “opponent” in part one. When we view the other as an opponent we have already lost humility and grace in whatever discussion we have. I may be taking his comment a bit out of context but opponent is a poor use of words for this artical. Also his example of the Arminian perspective vs those who follow a more Calvinist approach seems even agrumentive even in the artical itself. Then finally I believe our responsibilities are to not look at our own perspective and try to convince or show the rightness of our views as if we hold Gods truth and the other doesn’t, but that we in all humility listen, uphold, and simply share the Word of God in a way that communicates acceptence and Grace.

    I’m not sure the attitude of that came out in the artical so much as even a bent towards sharing from a specific Theological perspective. Just a feeling I got from the reading of the articals in general so it’s hard to nail down specifically. Perceptions are that way… It’s probably just Dr. Nicoles perspective and that comes accross in his views and what he says, which is probably a good thing, depending upon your leanings.

    In any discussion I think as the scripture tells us … ” Only by pride comes contension “… Not that discussions are or become contensous by any means, as good discussions are good for us when learning takes place in both parties; But they do seem to at times to lean towards contension. When that happens we have already lost the battle regardless of the rightness we may think we have.

    As I write I’m thinking how Jesus addressed the the religious leaders in Chapter 12 of Matthew when he said “…every idle word that men shall speak, they will give account thereof in the day of judgement. For by thy words thou shat be justified and by thy words thou shalt be condemned…”

    Words are so powerful….Think that was what Pual was getting at in Eph 4:29

  2. Just curioius: In the approach you outline, as contrated with Dr. Nicole’s, how do you hold “firmly” to what you believe, if the priority is affirming the other person? (Hebrews 4.14; Titus 1.9; etc.) Are we only to hold firmly to undisputed doctrines? What happens then, when these become disputed – as at some time or another all doctrines are disputed? In 1 Corinthians 15.3 Paul encourages Believers to hold on to that which is of “First Importance”. Does that relegate everything else he does not cite in the subsequent verses (v. 4-8) un-important, or simply as of secondary importance? If it is simply of secondary importance, are we not to hold on to that with some firmness?

    Practically speaking: How do you present Scripture to someone who disagrees without in any way suggesting you believe they are in error or at least thinking insufficiently? It seems to me that to offer any correction at all, even as gently as you offered to the late Dr. Nicole, violates the premise you are asserting.

    That said, I think I understand where you are coming from concerning the word opponent. However, you may be attaching way too negative a notion to the word. “Opponent” is not synonomous for “Enemy” or “Adversary”, though people use this word that way. And though an “enemy” or “advesary” would also be “opponents”, an “opponent” is not necesarily an “advesary” or an “enemy”. An opponent can be held in high regard & affection. Some of the most fun I have ever had was when I regularly played racquetball with/against one of my closest friends. The competition was intense but the realtionship was never in danger of being anything but strengthened, although in those times we were friendly opponents. While my friend was my opponent, never was he my enemy or advesary. Part of the problem, I think, is in the lazy interposing of the words so common in our inarticulate, or hyperbolic, culture.

    In the same way one can be our friend and recreational “opponent”, someone can be our theological “opponent” – or “opposite” – without becoming an enemy or advesary. The key, as I believe is the heart of your desire, is how we treat the person in our differences. And there, I suspect, there is no difference between what you desire and what Dr. Nicole expresses.

    • Thanks Dennis. I agree with you on the use of the word opponent; In it’s modern common use it’s most times not used in that way unless we are talking sports or something similar. But I would personally never use it in the context of a discussion regarding the Bible. At least I hope not.

      Regarding your questions, I think we can affirm people who differ in doctrine. (in fact I think we should at least celebrate our differences within certain guidlines) We hold no truth in ourselves but that which is revelaed to us by the Spirit of God. We can certanily discuss and in the discussion accept people (not their views if they are not in accordance with Scripture) and afirm them as people made in the image of God so uphold them as such. But too many times I think we error on the negitive side of things and act like we have some corner on the truth or that our understanding is closer to what God is saying. To me thats a pretty arrogant and almost rude perspective.

      I think we are to always love people even when they step on our beliefs, maybe especially when they step on what we hold dear and what we hold to be true in Scripture. Now I know how that sounds. But I think the example that Jesus held for us overcomes my desire to be right and the other to be wrong. Not saying we don’t stand on what we believe or that we water down true doctrin. It’s all in how we address people even when they are obviously wrong in both reading the Scripture and in action.

      I know that I need to listen more, be more accepting of others regardless of their beliefs and affirm where I can. Jesus could get away with calling the religious leaders a generation of Vipers in His day, but I’m not so sure I’m insightful enough to say that to anyone. Nor in fact should I. How else do we love our enemies ?, how else do we show a captive world our love ?, how else do we show Love between the brothern ?

      I know I may be a bit naive, but truly loving the other has to start with us. Regardless of how their views may be different than ours. I think that must show it’s self in word and deed.

      Already too much polizeration and division in our world and it should not be among those who call themselves Christ Followers.

      Yah, I get that I sound like a dreamer. Didn’t the Beetles say somthing like that ?

      I get what you said. I agree with it as well ! 🙂

  3. The polarization that exists is evidence of sin. People can disagree, even strongly, without becoming enemies with others. While I agree that this is not always practiced, and all too often is not practiced, I would be hesitant to say it is rarely practiced.

    On the other side of that issue are those who would hold to nothing, excpet perhaps a few fundamental doctrines. Some pass this off as love, but in reality it is only ignorance and/or lack of conviction. Leaving people in error simply because contemporary Evangelicalism wants no part of Sound Doctrine, instead emphasizing “Evangelism” – as if Sound Doctrine and Evangelism are mutually exclusive – is not a demonstration of love. It is an absence of substantive interaction. The absence of something does not make it the presnce of something else – in this case unity and love.

    If doctrinal divisiveness is sliding off the narrow path to the right side, doctrinal ignorance or minimalizing is slipping off the left side. Either way it violates what Jesus instructed us about falling to the right or to the left.

    The key is to watch your life and doctrine, your heart & worldview, to grow deeply in Grace & knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and hold firmly to, what Josh Harris calls, Humble Orthodoxy.

  4. I agree Dennis…Issue is Humble Orthodoxy ! My hope is orthodoxy does’t mean we don’t ask questions and don’t limit or should I say exclude others in expressing themselves.

    I think the envangelical world has somewhat limited discussion to hard questions because they already arrived at a particular perspective or view. In essence we shut down the discussion because we “know” the answer. Gen 1-2 is a good example.

    Just maybe a reason that many young leave the Church. I’m not talking about sliding off one way or the other. My perspective is engaging people where they are and inviting them in the converstaion. Not excluding based upon a false sence of what they know, heard or learned elsewhere.

    I think as Christ Followers we have a great responsibility to know the Truth and live it out. Especially expressing it in Love.

    I agree with you on watching our life and doctrin, world view and especially our hearts. Our motives are difficult things at times. Like the ego and pride, and maybe even idols we so easily make for ourselves.

    But it really hurts my heart and sense of togetherness when Sunday, our day of Worship is the most segregated day of the week. Because we as Christ Followers can not seem to agree on much regarding the issue of Doctrin. I wonder what in the world happened to John 13: 33-34.
    And so our window to the unchurched is like them trying to look thru a broken window with so many cracks they can’t see inside.

    Since we are the “Religious Leaders” of our time I hope we get it right thru Love. Not something else for fear of going off track. Isn’t that a bit of what Paul said when he mentioned he became all things to all people so that he may win some.

    But yes, your absolutely correct. Too many times people are ignorant and or lack conviction, let alone know what they really believe and why.

    Great post by the way……

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